By Guest Author Shailesh Otari
Deal Radar wraps up 2009 in India, with two more companies that have crossed the $1 million revenue mark. The first is business intelligence (BI) software product company called MAIA Intelligence. The company’s primary offering is a data visualization layer that provides BI in the form of actionable information. The company aims to provide an intuitive way of reading and looking at data, rather than simply offering statistical analysis. MAIA provides BI at every level in an organization; “Democratization of business intelligence by allowing decision making at every level” is the company’s motto.
Sanjay Mehta, founder and CEO of MAIA, was exposed to BI as a technology while working for a multinational corporation in India in 2003. While gaining strong domain experience, Sanjay also observed some business challenges prevalent in those days. Most BI products cost more than $4,000 per seat. They were time-consuming to deploy, and users needed to create data warehouse models before reports could be created. Such solutions were not a good fit for numerous businesses that had practices spread across different layers in an organization. For example, if a manager in the sales department needed an analysis, he would ask somebody to fetch the necessary data, compile it in a spreadsheet application, and finally present it to the manager. This would take lot of time and energy and again there was the challenge of getting the data from the correct source in the first place. Such business intelligence needs could not be solved effectively using the existing, expensive solutions and Mehta saw this as a business opportunity. Thinking about how current BI offerings could be reengineered to get around this issue, Mehta and his initial team came out with the basic version of their product by 2005. Getting rid of databases in their BI model allowed them speedy deployment of business intelligence and MAIA was started in 2006 with the value proposition of low costs and high speed. MAIA’s mission is to “bring business intelligence to the masses, at every level and not just the C level.”Offering the analogy of email, which empowered employees and dramatically changed communication within organizations, Mehta hopes to bring about a similar revolution by bringing business intelligence to even the lowest rungs of organizations.
Although the team estimated the Indian market at $37 million, no formal market survey was done in the initial days of the company’s establishment. However, MAIA knew that it needed to target the underserved areas within organizations. Since most organizations had already invested in some BI infrastructure, moving to MAIA meant significant switching costs. Realizing this, MAIA didn’t try to compete with a company’s existing infrastructure. Instead, it moved to uncontested areas where BI was done in a raw, personalized, and non-standardized way. Close to 90% of employees were not based on any BI platform and most work was done on spreadsheets. MAIA’s strategy was to provide a standardized platform for such employees, since generating buy-ins for such offerings was relatively easier.
To get early traction, MAIA differentiated its offerings by providing server-based instead of seat based pricing. This helped large organizations to control their costs. A modular product offering was soon introduced so that smaller clients could pick and choose what they wanted and pay accordingly. In this way, MAIA appealed to both large and small companies and was able to move very fast and get a large chunk of enterprise users interested in its products. To gain more clients, MAIA formed strategic partnerships with consulting firms and OEMs. Consulting firms such as Kale Consultants sell retail licenses for MAIA while OEMs bundle MAIA’s BI products with their applications software products. Both these partnerships have helped MAIA to generate a constant revenues stream over the past three years. In terms of target market segments, MAIA directed its efforts toward financial services firms because of their involvement in multiple lines of business and their need to integrate diverse set of applications to build correct analysis and useful reports. What significantly accelerated MAIA’s growth was its ability to integrate and pull data from Tally, an accounting software application that is used widely in Indian companies.This gave MAIA a distinct edge, since most other BI solutions could not source data from Tally.
MAIA marketed its products in a variety of ways. CIOs of large enterprises were targeted through IT media magazines. The company attended technology seminars and conferences to showcase MAIA’s products and convince CIOs of their usefulness. CFOs were targeted in a similar manner through channels such as seminars organized by the Institutes of Chartered Accountants in India. Online media such as LinkedIn and blogs helped to establish thought leadership in the field of BI. As a result of its incessant marketing efforts, MAIA has established itself in business intelligence domain in India and was recognized by NASSCOM as an expert in the field.
Early product development was bootstrapped. After successfully completing projects with two clients, MAIA managed to get $300,000 from an angel investor to move the venture forward. A comprehensive management team was formed to look after product development, operations, sales, and alliances. Responsibilities were divided, and as in any company, choosing the right people for right jobs made a difference. Starting with Indian clients such as Bharat Forge (manufacturing), Tata Chemicals (fertilizers), Amul (dairy products) and Reliance Capital (financial services), MAIA is now expanding to Africa, the Middle East, and Singapore. “Our product is grown, technology is established and so replicating success at multiple places is key to success,” Mehta says. MAIA reached revenues of $1 million in fiscal year 2009 and is confident of further growth this year. Banking on its strong partnership ecosystem, MAIA is looking at establishing its presence in multiple regions in next two to five years. However, Mehta doesn’t consider MAIA to be mature enough for an exit strategy at this point.
On the overall entrepreneurship movement in India, Mehta is glad to see product companies coming out of India. He believes that the ability to constantly seize opportunities by realigning is the key to success. Emphasizing the importance of having good mentors, Mehta acknowledges the support MAIA received from organizations such as the CIO Klub of Mumbai. “[Come] success or failure, you have to try,” Mehta advises new entrepreneurs.
A note from Sramana to readers: Do you have a company you want featured in Deal Radar? I would like to hear from you if you are an Indian startup and have hit the $1 million milestone. Please email Shailesh Otari [shaileshotari.mba AT gmail.com] with your information. Shailesh is working with me with a specific focus on Indian startups.
This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2009